While southern Minnesota's geography is largely rural, voters there cluster in Rochester (Minnesota's third largest city), thriving mini-metro college towns as Winona and Mankato, and blue-collar regional enclaves like Austin, New Ulm and Faribault.
In Republicans look to Rochester for Walz-beater, Politics in Minnesota staff writer Charley Shaw reports:
Nathan Gonzalez, deputy editor of the Rothenberg Political Report, said he sees the race as one in which Republicans are still looking for a candidate.
“Republicans are determined to play offense in Minnesota’s 1st District,” Gonzalez said in an email. “They are still searching for a candidate, but they don’t want Walz to get a free ride. Walz has proven to be a tough incumbent to defeat, so it’s up to Republicans to prove that 2014 will be any different.”
Shaw explores the geographic calculus that the Republicans need to solve to beat Walz, although electoral history demonstrates that geography isn't destiny for the Mankato DFLer.
Walz beat six-term Rochester Republican Gil Gutknecht by 5.62 percent spread in an upset in 2006, Rochester doctor Brian Davis by a nearly 30 percent landslide in 2008 and Hayfield legislator Randy Demmer by 5 percent in the Republican wave year of 2010. Hayfield is about a half-hour drive from Rochester, a stone's throw in the sprawling Fighting First.
Shaw points out, "In 2012, Walz defeated his Republican opponent, Allen Quist, by a commanding 15 percentage points." Nicollet County made the Republican a relative home boy for a Mankato incumbent.
Those who subscribe should read all of Shaw's solid reporting. One thing that remains constant for CD1 Republicans is the rhetoric that Walz acts "like us" in the district while voting with his caucus in DC:
“The fact is that when he comes home, he talks like us. When he goes to Washington he votes like [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi,” Stevenson said. “Republicans don’t feel that he matches the district very well at all. His support for Obamacare is really what’s motivating folks here.”
Earlier this year, Mankato Free Press veteran political reporter Mark Fischenich pointed out how shopworn and unsaleable that line of goods has been for district Republicans:
[Aaron] Miller also made the same pledge that Brian Davis, Randy Demmer and Allen Quist made early in their campaigns to unseat Walz, who defeated six-term incumbent Congressman Gil Gutknecht: to persuade southern Minnesotans that Walz is conning them rather than revealing his true beliefs and values.
“He wants you to believe he’s ‘the moderate from Mankato,’” Miller said.
So far, Southern Minnesota voters haven't been buying the notion that they're stupid dupes, but maybe 2014 will be the year Republicans can succeed with that message (2010 iteration here in an ad campaign by Minnesota Majority).
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